130 years ago this evening, nine bibliophiles met at the New York home of Robert Hoe to discuss the idea of founding a club dedicated to the book arts. Within two weeks the men had drafted a constitution and named their new club after the great French book collector and man of letters Jean Grolier (1490–1565) and The Grolier Club was born. It was the first major book collecting club in the United States and I’ve been proud to be a member for more than a decade.
The object of the Grolier Club (to quote from its Constitution) is “to foster the study, collecting, and appreciation of books and works on paper, their art, history, production, and commerce. It shall pursue this mission through the maintenance of a library devoted to all aspects of the book and graphic arts and especially bibliography; through the occasional publication of books designed to illustrate, promote and encourage the book and graphic arts; through exhibitions and educational programs for its members and the general public; and through the maintenance of a Club building for the safekeeping of its property, and otherwise suitable for the purposes of the Club.”
The club maintains a building in New York where they mount major and minor book exhibitions and house a significant library of books about books, book auctions catalogues, and related materials. They sponsor events, lectures, and tours, and pursue an active publications program which includes bibliographies, exhibit catalogues, and The Grolier Club Gazette. Although I do not live in New York, I do enjoy my visits to the club when I am in town. I’ve taken a “members only” tour of a Jane Austen exhibit at the Morgan Library, attended a panel discussion on private presses and fine printing, seen many exhibits, and used the library in the course of my own research. In every case I have some into contact with like-minded bibliophiles. Careful readers of my novel The Bookman’s Tale will know that I mention the club in that story.
Many of the Grolier Club events, including all the exhibitions, are open to the public (and are generally free). If you live in New York, or are just visiting, stop by my club. I might even be there to say hello.
For more information about the Grolier Club and its exhibits and programs, visit the club website.